To begin, a script should only be as long as needed to tell the story. This will vary from writer to writer, and that will be cut by producers and directors. But do not let that affect your creative flow. It is all part of the collaborative development process.


Hundreds of movies are made every year using this process. You may have a story, but films need screen-plays in a certain format that directors understand - and that is a story adapted to this purpose. So we start with a script, but only a few scripts make a really enjoyable film, and fewer still (hopefully ours) become classics. What is the secret?


If only we knew. If only the film industry knew - if they did, all films would be blockbusters.


Where chance favours the prepared mind, prepare yourself as much as you can. But, don't get hung up on technicalities. This is art. Don't stifle innovation simply to comply. If everyone did, there would be no breaking of new ground. Making Oscar grumpy.








The length of any film is dependent on the story you are trying to tell and the budget for the movie. The average length of a live action movie is 100-120 minutes. For an animation it is less, around 90 - 100 minutes.


Formating scripts for movies is fairly rigid. It is thus possible that there is a correlation between page count and screen time - as in the "one page per minute rule."


Writers do not have much scope to change the length of their:


1. Scene headings,


2. Character names and Parentheticals* (as counted by lines, not words) 


This means that the elements that could most affect the length of a script and the length of a finished film are Action and Dialogue.

In one study, the average script of a dataset (sans cover pages) was 118 pages while the average running time for those same projects (sans credits) was 109 minutes. Suggesting that the rule for (those) scripts is ‘one page per 56 seconds’ or ‘1.08 pages per minute’. Close, but less catchy.

A film will go through a number of stages between the first draft and the final movie. The screenplay is the workbook for the different studio departments – Art, Wardrobe, Director of Photography (DP), Director.


The list below is an example of the many phases that can shape a film’s contents:

- The writer(s) create multiple drafts of the script


- Directors, producers, studios will suggest changes.


- Actors will suggest changes


- Changes will be made to accommodate the budget, schedule, locations and weather.


- Actors and director working together to craft a performance, sometimes change the lines.


- The editor will edit the final scenes from what was shot.


- A "final cut" can be affected by censors, exhibitors, airlines & broadcasters.

During pre-production, shooting and post-production, the pressure is always to save time and money, with cuts being inevitable. Having an extra page costs next to nothing but having an extra scene to shoot is a drain on a budget and schedule. 

These findings largely support the 'page-per-minute' rule of thumb mostly stemming from the observation that most screenplays are around 120 pages and most movies around 120 minutes long, even though scripts submitted that are longer, may never see the light of day, except as extended Director's Cuts.



Keeping to the minimum - It works as a crude guide in many cases. Assuming no one is making major decisions based purely on this rule, then it’s not doing any harm.

It frames scriptwriting – The rule is easy to remember, and therefore more likely to be used. You should remember that a script is a blueprint for an audio-visual work (as opposed to a piece of stand-alone prose). It is thus useful in keeping the nature of screenwriting firmly in mind during the development process.

Useful as a non-literal allegory – It speaks to a wider truth, that ‘more pages = more minutes = higher budget’. While the exact prediction of running time may be off, it does allow everyone to quickly see (for example) that the average 200-page script is too long and the average 60-page script is too short.

There are lots of exceptions to these rules, but generally, this is the position in Hollywood according to a former assistant: "I hated reading scripts over 110 pages."



Note: The Graphic Novel is different in Chapters to Book (44), and Script (21) is different again to Graphic Novel (24).


* Parentheticals, or actor/character directions (or “wrylies”) are those little descriptions that sometimes appear after a character’s name in a script, in dialogue blocks, to spell out tone, intent or action.


They are mini scene descriptions written in the dialogue, a useful and essential tool for a screenwriter to communicate their intent. Usually, parenthetical will describe action, emotion or the way the character delivers the dialogue.




    John Storm dives in to rescue Kulo Luna, and cut the giant whale free of fishing nets


SAMPLE SCENES - John Storm is a resourceful ocean conservationist, determined to save an injured whale from being eaten by sharks, while trapped in ghost fishing nets. The story is designed to represent the interests of all the participants, and compassion for marine life, where the oceans feed more than 20% of people on planet earth. We simply could not do without seafood produce, but this asset should be treated with respect.











write better scripts parenthetical






Please use our A-Z INDEX to navigate this site or return HOME



This website is Copyright © 2021 Cleaner Ocean Foundation Ltd and Jameson Hunter Ltd

Kulo Luna™ is a registered trade mark with international application(s) pending.